05 Jun 2015

Naso 5775: Making a Living

Naso 5775: Making a Living
“My mother said to me, ‘If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.’ Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso.”

                                           — Pablo Picasso

From a young age we are subtly, if not overtly, encouraged to make a decision about what we will “be” when we grow up. In this country, for example, students are required to choose a career path even before they have a fully developed sense of self. We are in fact a bit careless when we ask a young person that question, because our intent is usually different from what we say. We are not, in reality, asking them what they would like to be, but what they would like to do. By confusing becoming with doing, we teach children to equate their careers with their identity. When we speak of being, we speak of existence or what an entity is. When we speak of doing, we speak of action.

Regardless of what one chooses to do in one’s life — and many of us will tend to be involved in more than one job or career over time — it is generic. Doctor, lawyer, investment banker, botanist, mother, father, accountant, rabbi, chef, construction worker, author — professions can be filled by any number of people, but only you can do it your way, and that is the only thing that rescues the position from being generic. It is inaccurate and even detrimental to think of oneself as being what one does because we then limit the fullness of our identity to a particular, and often narrow, expression. Rather than choose what we wish to be in our lives, we should simply choose to be and recognise the work in which we engage as one of several possible means to creating ourselves. In knowing this, we invest, in the best way possible, all we have into whatever it is that we are doing.

Emphasis, therefore, should not be placed on what one does per se, but how one does it. It is in the ‘how’ or the way in which one achieves a particular end that the self is expressed and developed. When we identify ourselves by the generic elements of our lives, when we call ourselves by our profession, we risk rendering ourselves generic and we suppress the uniqueness that is the truest and greatest contribution that we can offer the world.

The ending of Parashat Naso expresses this point in an elegant, yet powerful way by juxtaposing the generic with the uniqueness of the individual. At the parasha’s end, the gifts of the presidents of each tribe are listed individually (7:12-83). Yet, the individual listing of a gift with each president is redundant because each president brought the exact same gift. The Torah could have been more frugal with the wording (and shortened the reading) if it sufficed to simply write the gift once and list with it the names of each president. Instead, together with the name of each president, the same gift is repeated no less than twelve times!

The gifts themselves were indeed generic, but were made unique and special by the individuals who offered them. The person was the difference in each gift and what gave it real value. We, not the office we hold or career in which we work, are the ones who bring specialised value to the world. Each gift is mentioned separately in the parasha, even though the contents were the same, because the individuals who brought them made them different and irreplaceable.

Regardless of what we choose to do in our lives, there is only one project that any of us will work on from the day we are born until the day we die. It is the one constant in all of our endeavours. It is the building of our identity.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Joseph Dweck

Law and Lore

About the Prayers

Zemirot VII – Yishtabah

The berakha (blessing) of Yishtabah closes the section of Zemirot in the morning prayers. It is considered to be a closing berakha following Barukh She’amar which is the opening berakha for the Zemirot. Because Yishtabah is connected in this way to Barukh She’amar it does not begin with the words ‘Barukh Ata Adonai’  as a stand-alone berakha would.

We answer amen to the berakha of Yishtabah after the words Melekh Hei haOlamim. Oriental tradition has a slight variation of wording for the ending: Melekh El Hai haOlamim. Hei haOlamim refers to G-d as the Life of all the worlds. Hai haOlamim  refers to G-d as the [ultimate] Living One of all worlds. Rabbi Hayim Yosef David Azoulay[1] (1724-1806) wrote about the difference in his Birkei Yosef (207) saying: “Many of the great grammarians agree that it should be pronounced hei , and I have indeed seen many of the great sages of our generation pronounce it hei. Yet, I will add that the custom throughout the land of Israel is to pronounce it hai”.

It is prohibited to speak between the end of Yishtabah and the beginning of Yotser Ohr. Yet, if it is for the needs of the congregation or for a mitsvah it is permitted.

If, on Shabbat, one forgot to say Nishmat Kol Hai it is permitted to say it between Yishtabah and Yotser.

During the ten days of Teshuba between Rosh haShana and Yom Kippur it is customary in oriental communities, based on kabbalistic teachings[2], to recite psalm 130 – Shir haMa’alot mima’amakim keratikha, between Yishtabah and Yotser. The S&P does not follow this custom.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaim_Joseph_David_Azulai

[2] Sha’ar haKavanot, Derush Rosh haShana, 90a. Cf. Magen Abraham, 54:2.

Parasha Perspectives
II Naso

24a      Gershon: Men, 30-50, carry the hangings, coverings and court.  Aharon’s son         Itamar in charge  (4:21-28)
24b   Merari: Men, 30-50, carry rigid parts of Mishkan. Aharon’s son Itamar in charge. 2750 Qehat  (4:29-37)
24c      Totals of Levi’im census: 2630 Gershon, 3200 Merari. Total: 8580 men, 30-50  (4:38-49)
25        Removal of unclean persons from the camp  (5:1-4) Three reasons: Has tzora’at, had an issue, had contact with the dead.
26        Stealing and swearing falsely about it  (5:5-10) Same as Vayikra 5:21-26 plus: (a) Voluntary admission alone obligates payment of  the fine and the Asham  (b) Property stolen from a ‘ger’, who subsequently died, is to be given to the Kohanim
27        Exposure of adultery through Law of Sotah  (5:11-31) Husband suspects his wife of unfaithfulness: Woman: loosen hair, holds special mincha.  Kohen makes her swear over bitter waters. She drinks waters with blotted curses.  Innocent → conceive. Guilty → death
28        Laws of Nazir   (6:1-21)  Consecrated to God with three vows: no haircuts, alcohol or contact with the dead  (6:1-12)
At end of period bring Olah, Chatat, Shelamim and Mincha. Shaves, can drink.  (6:13-21)
29a       Instructions for Kohanim’s blessing   (6:22-23)
29b      “God bless you and watch over you”  (6:24)
29c      “God make God’s face to shine on you and be gracious to you”  (6:25)
29d      “God lift up God’s face to you and give you peace”  (6:26)
29e       Say God’s name when blessing  (6:27)
29f      Introduction to the offerings of the princes  (7:1-11)  Princes bring six covered wagons and twelve oxen. God tells Moshe to give toevi’im. He gave two wagons and four oxen to Gershon, four wagons and eight oxen to  Merari and nothing to Qehat
29g      Yehuda. Day 1: Nachshon ben Aminadav brought: (7:12-17)
One silver dish and one silver basin, both filled with flour mingled with oil for a Mincha. One golden pan full of incense. Olah: one bull, one ram and one lamb. Chatat: one goat. Shelamim: 2 oxen, 5 rams, 5 goats and 5 lambs
30        Yisachar. Day 2: Netanel ben Tzuar same  (7:18-23)
31        Zevulun. Day 3: Eliav ben Chelon same  (7:24-29)
32        Reuven.  Day 4: Elitzur ben Shedeur same (7:30-35)
33        Shimon. Day 5: Shelumiel ben Tzurshdai same (7:36-41)
34        Gad.  Day 6: Eliyasaf  ben Deuel same  (7:42-47)
35        Efrayim. Day 7: Elishama ben Amihud same (7:48-53)
36        Menashe. Day 8: Gamliel ben Pedatzur same (7:54-59)
37        Binyamin. Day 9: Avidan ben Gidoni same  (7:60-65)
38        Dan. Day 10: Achiezer ben Amishadai same  (7:66-71)
39        Asher. Day 11: Pagiel ben Ochran same  (7:72-77)
40        Naftali. Day 12: Achira ben Enan same  (7:78-83)
41        Total donation. The Mishkan is dedicated  (7:84-89)

Taken from, ‘Torah for Everyone’ by Rabbi Dr Raphael Zarum, Dean of LSJS